Special O

DEREK CLARKSTON/Kodiak Daily Mirror

Kodiak’s Mark Payopay, left, and Jeffrey Garcia, right, get interviewed by Anchorage television station KTBY at the Special Olympics State Bowling Tournament at Eagle River Bowl. 

There I was, sprawled out on a couch inside room No. 139 at the Springhill Suites in Anchorage sound asleep. 

At least I was for that moment. 

My two roomies — occupying the two large beds that I was so kind as to give them — had other plans than to sleep. 

One roommate, Jeffery Garcia, woke up, decided to be a disc jockey and blasted music. 

The music woke up the other roommate, Mark Payopay, who then walked over to the couch and greeted me with, “Good morning, my friend.” 

I picked up my phone, adjusted my eyes to the bright screen, and discovered that it was only 1:30 a.m. 1:30 a.m.! 

Yep, you have to brace for out-of-the-ordinary events on Special Olympics trips. 

I was fortunate — or unfortunate at that moment — to be one of 12 Kodiakians to compete at the Special Olympics State Bowling Tournament last weekend at Eagle River Bowl. 

This was my third — maybe fourth, I don’t remember — trip to the state bowling tournament.  

Every trip is unique, and this one can only be described as “sleep-deprived.”

After Mark’s greeting, I couldn’t get back to sleep, and neither could Mark.

Mark — a 27-year-old who was born in the Philippines and moved to the island with his parents a decade ago — was up and down  until it was time to leave for the bowling alley at 6:45 a.m.

I spent the next 12 hours at the alley, trying to stay awake as our group rolled six games — three in a singles event and three in a doubles event. 

I needed an infusion of caffeine and mini naps to survive the day, while Mark was in his element, a social butterfly moving from one conversation to the next. 

While I struggled through the doubles portion of the tournament, Mark was electric, carrying us to a silver medal. He was motivated by our lane monitor — University of Alaska Anchorage gymnast Kenadi Brown. 

Mark flirted with her the entire evening, and it worked as he eclipsed his average in all three games.  

He didn’t win any points with Kenadi when she asked Mark to guess her age. He said 28 — only a decade off target. 

That night, Mark decided he wanted the couch, so I took his bed. I was ready to crash, but as soon as my body hit the mattress, Jeff started to tell me his story. 

His story is inspiring, and I hope I get a chance to hear it again when I’m fully awake. 

From what my foggy brain remembers, Jeff — a once speedy basketball player with a great outside shot — sustained a life-changing injury during a city league basketball game a decade ago. 

He was pushed going up for a rebound, and his head thudded against the gym floor. Jeff explained what happened, but the most important part was that he was in a coma for a while. When he came to, his brain was fuzzy, and he didn’t remember anybody but his then-girlfriend. He went from being a person without intellectual disabilities to someone who needed help to do daily things. 

Since the injury, Jeff has found a home with Special Olympics, competing in golf, swimming, basketball and bowling. 

He has also returned to playing city league basketball. 

“I’m really thankful for the things that I am doing,” he said.

Jeff’s story is inspiring, and that is what makes Special Olympics great — the inspiring people. 

Being a part of Special Olympics has changed my life, and I am thankful for that, even if that means a weekend of no sleep.  

 

NFL PICKS

Perfection. I didn’t bowl a 300 game last week in Anchorage, but I was perfect in picking NFL games, going 5-0 in Week 11. 

I head into Week 12 with a 33-21 record.

 

TAMPA BAY AT ATLANTA

The Falcons are finally playing football, but it 3-7 it is a little too late. 

Clarkston: Falcons

 

SEATTLE AT PHILADELPHIA

This game was flexed out of the Sunday night game to a Sunday morning game. It doesn’t matter what time the game is played, Seattle is cooking right now. 

Clarkston: Seahawks

 

DALLAS AT NEW ENGLAND

The Patriots might be 9-1, but I’m still not sold on them.

Dak Prescott is playing good football right now and will orchestrate an upset in New England.  

Clarkston: Cowboys 

 

GREEN BAY AT 

SAN FRANCISCO

San Francisco is lucky that it is not entering this game riding a two-game losing streak as the 49ers nearly fell to Arizona last week. 

Green Bay is coming off a bye, which means the Packers had plenty of time to prepare for  San Francisco. 

Clarkston: Packers

 

BALTIMORE AT L.A. RAMS

In a must-win game for the Rams to stay in the playoff race, they get the challenge of stopping Lamar Jackson. 

Good luck with that. 

Clarkston: Ravens

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